Scorching Springfield Thunderbirds complete weekend sweep

The Springfield Thunderbirds (12-2-2-0) rode strong goaltending and a furious third-period charge to a 5-2 win over the Bridgeport Islanders (5-9-1-2) on Sunday inside the Webster Bank Arena. Each of the club’s young goaltenders got off to hot starts this Sunday afternoon. Joel Hofer only needed to make 16 saves in his first start against Bridgeport on Oct. 22, but he needed to be at his very best on this day, stopping 11 Bridgeport offerings in the first period, including a pair of calm denials on Islander 2-on-1 bids.–175959763/–175959763/–175959763/–175959763/–175959763/–175959763/–175959763/–175959763/ Jakub Skarek, who got the start in the Bridgeport net, matched Hofer save for save, and the Bridgeport penalty kill fended off the lone power play in the first at the midpoint of the period. However, Springfield broke through as the clock ticked under a minute to play in the period. Following a Bridgeport icing, Tyler Tucker threw the puck down behind the Islander net, where Logan Brown scooped it up in the trapezoid and immediately sneaked a quick pass through the crease, where Nathan Walker jammed a one-time snapper through Skarek at 19:01 of the period. Walker’s fourth of the season and third against the Islanders made it 1-0 into the intermission. Hofer showed no signs of slowing down his sensational play in the second period, making one of his best saves of the young season, sliding from his right to left before lurching out with the left arm to stonewall Blade Jenkins on a point-blank chance. However, the Bridgeport attack would not be subdued, and at 9:13, Simon Holmstrom got the game even up at 1-1, off a slick feed from the left-wing corner by Otto Koivula. Skarek also was at the top of his game in the second period, making eight strong saves in the middle period to buy his team the time to tie the score, and the 1-1 deadlock is where the game would stay heading into the final period of the weekend.

Bridgeport got a bit of lady luck to vault to the lead just 51 seconds into the final period when a Parker Wotherspoon wrist shot from the left point deflected high in the air over Hofer to give the Islanders a 2-1 advantage.

Despite their first deficit of the night, the Thunderbirds would not be denied. Matthew Peca found a loose puck in a mad scramble in the goal crease to beat Skarek at 4:42 of the period, tying the game, 2-2.

The Thunderbirds’ power play then struck to take the lead just 1:58 later, with rookie Mathias Laferriere potting his first AHL goal on a perfect shot from the right-wing circle to make it 3-2. Skarek had inadvertently pushed the net off its pegs as the shot came whistling into the top shelf, but after review, referees upheld the “good goal” call on the ice.

Keean Washkurak made sure the Islanders would not get any closer, beating Skarek from the left wing with a snap shot off the inside of the post to make it 4-2 at 11:49.

Walker would add an empty-netter to round out the four-goal fury for Springfield, his second of the night, at 18:49. Hofer improved to 5-0-1 in his first six starts, stopping 27 of 29 Bridgeport offerings. Springfield is also 5-0-1 in the first six matchups with the Islanders this season. In addition to Walker’s two-goal game, Brown and Tucker each piled up three assists in the T-Birds victory, the team’s fourth straight triumph overall. The Thunderbirds and Islanders complete their second different run of three straight matchups on Wednesday at the MassMutual Center – puck drop is set for 6:05 p.m. for the Thanksgiving Eve battle.

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